Ukraine Protests: President Viktor Yanukovych Leaves Kiev for Support Base

US says deal remains ‘very, very fragile” as president Yanukovich leaves Kiev for the stronghold of Kharkiv.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych flew out of the capital to the country’s second largest city Kharkiv, his eastern political base. Photo: European Parliament/Flickr

Protesters seized the Kiev office of the President on Saturday and the opposition insisted that a new election must be held by May, as Yanukovich escaped from the capital to his support base in Kharkiv.

A US official revealed to reporters that the president flew to the city of Kharkiv to attend a meeting. Two key allies, parliamentary speaker Volodomyr Rybak and presidential administration chief Andrei Kluyev, left Kiev on the same aircraft.

“Our information, and I talked to the foreign minister about half an hour ago, is that President Yanukovych has gone out to Kharkiv… to some kind of a meeting that is taking place out there, and that he has now arrived,” the official said.

The senior security source said of Yanukovich: “Everything’s ok with him … He is in Ukraine.” Asked whether the leader was in the capital, the source replied: “I cannot say.”

And while Yanukovich left Kiev, protesters occupied his office in the capital. Ostap Kryvdyk, who stated himself as a protest commander, told reporters some protesters had entered the offices but there was no looting.

“We will guard the building until the next president comes,” he told Reuters. “Yanukovich will never be back.”

When asked about rumours that Yanukovych had “fled” Kiev, after signing a deal with the opposition, the official played down the version.

“As you know, it is not unusual after he makes large political moves for him to visit the east, where his base is,” the official said.

The country’s leader was forced to agree on a deal with the Ukranian opposition in attempt to end the worst crisis since ex-Soviet member got its independence, after three days of clashes that left nearly 100 protesters dead.

However, Yanukovych’s promises to have early elections and form a new government faced skepticism and even hostility by nearly 40,000 protesters who gathered on central Kiev’s main square – many of them frustrated the leader was not stepping down.

The president’s trip to his support base came as Barack Obama rang Vladimir Putin to discuss the fragile peace in Ukraine.

According to a US official, the  leader agreed that a deal aimed at ending bloody clashes between government forces and protesters all over the country needs to be quickly implemented so that the situation stabilises.

“They agreed that the agreement reached today needed to be implemented quickly, that it was very important to encourage all sides to refrain from violence, that there was a real opportunity here for a peaceful outcome,” a senior State Department official told reporters on a conference call.

Meanwhile, the White House reveals details of the agreement are consistent with what the United States had been urging. Thus, Yanukovich agreed on a de-escalation of the violence, constitutional change, a coalition government and early elections.

The State Department official warned that the deal remains “very, very fragile”.

“This has been a very tough sell and will continue to be a tough sell for the opposition to make to those on the streets. This is not least because of the horrible, horrible violence of the last two days,” the official said.

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